Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

August 1, 2009

Conway, Mongiardo get testy at Fancy Farm

Price, Sweeney make their cases for Senate


FANCY FARM — Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo continues to hammer his main rival for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate over what Mongiardo contends is Attorney General Jack Conway’s refusal to condemn energy legislation before the Congress.

Saturday there were signs at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic that Conway has had enough and intends to fight back.

The legislation – called cap and trade – would penalize industries and utilities which emit greenhouse gases above a limit set by the legislation. Most think Kentucky would pay a heavier price if the measure passes because Kentucky relies heavily on coal. Mongiardo says the bill would “devastate Kentucky’s economy.” Conway said Saturday he has always opposed the bill in its current form but recognizes the inevitability of changes in the country’s energy policies and would negotiate with the bill’s sponsors to help shape the bill in a way that wouldn’t harm Kentucky.

Mongiardo hammered on the theme at Friday evening and Saturday morning party events prior to the Fancy Farm political speaking and then reminded those in the crowd that his opponent attended Duke University while Mongiardo said he is “a Kentucky Wildcat.”

“When it comes to me, Daniel, you can’t hear the truth, you can’t smell the truth and you sure as hell can’t speak the truth,” Conway said from the Fancy Farm podium after Mongiardo said he would “stand up and fight for people who eat barbecue with a fork, not caviar with a silver spoon.”

Then Conaway invoked the memory of the last Democrat to hold the Senate seat – Wendell Ford.

“Just like Wendell used to say – go ahead and chew on my hide, it only grows back tougher, and I’ve been around a while and you’re looking at one tough son of a bitch,” Conway said as his supporters cheered.

Former U.S. Customs agent Darlene Fitzgerald Price of Williamsburg – ignored her primary opponents by name, focusing her criticism on the corruption in government.

She criticized no-big government contracts, “billion dollar bailouts,” and “Washington politics as usual.” She said “crony campaign financing” has led to congressional representatives being bought by special interests, by the “bigs – big oil, big banks, big pharmaceutical companies and big insurance companies.” She said she will not take “one thin dime from the bigs.”

“Most of our politicians on capitol hill, if they were Nascar, they would have to wear their sponsors on their suits,” she said.

The fourth and newest Democratic candidate, Eastwood surveyor and consultant Maurice Sweeney, entertained the Democrats with several humorous lines, once asking why Republicans always follow the lead of Sen. Mitch McConnell “hook, line and sinker.”

“Why don’t we just have one Republican in Washington and that takes care of all the rest of them because they don’t seem to have any original idea of their own?” Sweeney asked.

Mongiardo, an ear and throat surgeon, again railed against the cap and trade bill, which he termed the “Jack Energy Tax,” and the need for health care reform. He said he’d be the only Democratic doctor in the Senate and said he has “never been more prepared for anything in my life.”

He said he’d represent every “hard working Kentuckian who punches a clock – not the silver spoon crowd.” Mongiardo’s campaign has tried to paint Conway as an elite and wealthy attorney from Louisville who was educated at prestigious Duke University.

Conway – when he wasn’t responding to Mongiardo – reviewed his time as attorney general touting cyber crime legislation he championed which he said led to removal of 35,000 child pornographic images and barring 90,000 sex offenders from My Space, Medicaid fraud collections, and investigation of price gouging by gasoline wholesalers and retailers.

And he promised not to vote against Kentucky’s coal industry if elected.

By Fancy Farm standards, it was a subdued affair – smaller crowds, less histrionics and maybe even a bit more civility from the audience who often jeer and try to drown out speakers from the other party. That’s probably because there are no elections this year and Sen. Jim Bunning, the Republican incumbent holding the seat sought by the three Democrats and three Republicans – Trey Grayson, Rand Paul and Bill Johnson – announced last Monday he won’t seek a third term.

Neither Bunning, nor Gov. Steve Beshear or Sen. Mitch McConnell attended Saturday.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNI News Service and is based in Frankfort, Ky. He may be contacted by email at rellis@cnhi.com.